Saint Andrew's School

3900 Jog Road - Boca Raton, FL 33434 USA   (map) (561) 210-2000

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Click-Clack: Using the iPod to Teach Math

Today's children are becoming increasingly influenced by varying forms of media in ways that would have been quite difficult to predict as recently as 20 years ago. Opportunities for children to interact with technology are increasing at an accelerating rate without a moment to miss. In a world where children are video-chatting from their bedrooms with relatives across the country or checking out what their friends are doing at any precise moment from their phones, schools around the country are feeling quite challenged to keep up the pace. What are schools to do?

Enter: One tech-savvy 5th grade teacher

Enter: Fourteen shiny, black Apple iPods

Enter: Fourteen 5th grade students hungry to learn math

It was around three months ago that 5th grade teacher Jason Glick was curious to discover if the ever popular Apple iPod could truly be transformed into a valuable resource for his math classroom. Initially, Glick struggled with this thought because he knew that it was often difficult to distinguish between an effective classroom technology tool and the latest hype from a trendy tech company.  He recognized that while certain concepts sounded fascinating, educators many times failed to ask the simplest of questions: 'So what?'

"I must say that I was very skeptical, myself, when I decided to experiment with iPods in my algebra class," stated Glick. "I had read an article online that featured video clips of the mobile devices in action, and I was not wholly impressed. Nonetheless, I must admit that I was enticed by the very concept of bringing one of the world's most popular gadgets into an area where such items are usually banned, let alone embraced as the centerpiece of a rich and engaging learning experience."

In addition, Glick worried about precious funding being squandered on flashy equipment without any clear pedagogical objectives being in place beyond the fact that it 'looked cool'. He understood that even a classroom full of laptops would be rendered useless if the teacher did not know what to do with them. Similarly, he knew that a SMART Board performed no better than a projector and screen when the correct practices were not employed. All in all, Glick recognized that schools had to be discerning when it came to allocating funds for technology-use in the classroom.

After some research, and consulting with Chief Technology Officer Elias Bassil, Glick came up with answers to his questions. He learned was that there were applications for the iPod catering to nearly every concentration of mathematics ranging from basic math facts to higher level calculus. And while some apps were more useful than others, he was able to find more than enough material to supplement an entire week's worth of lessons. After learning that nearly all of his students had access to an iPod touch or iPhone, Glick finally decided to move forward in making the iPod math tool a reality.

The target date for the first ever iPod math class was the end of January and Glick knew that he needed to collect all the students' iPods to make sure all of the software was loaded correctly. For each iPod, he loaded three very simple applications, which tested the fundamentals of solving algebraic equations:

"Falling Algebra" by Clay Cat

"Algebra Level 1" by Clay Cat

"MathMaster Algebra" by Binc

Glick also used a fascinating application called 'eClicker', which allowed him to question and poll the students from his device to theirs. With all the iPods in place, Glick and his students were ready to go.

The exciting day finally came and math started promptly at 8:30am. Mr. Glick brought out his iPhone and asked the students to bring up the first of three applications. After some initial kinks, Glick and his students picked up the pace and with some eagerness, the students were up and running! Glick knew it was an instant hit. The students smiled. They couldn’t believe their eyes.

"When Mr. Glick said, 'Ok guys, bring out your iPods' I didn't know whether I was dreaming or if I was just in an extremely fun institution of learning," stated one excited 5th grader. "The iPod learning enforces a new kind of learning that was once thought not possible. Modern technology not only effects our lives and the fun we have in general, but it has also created a new, innovative way of learning that promotes extreme levels of brain stimulation."

Glick was excited about what he learned during the first session. While the iPod worked better with the math question sets that had been prepared prior to the lesson, he also discovered that it was also possible to question the students spontaneously and receive instantaneous results. Glick also understood that using an app such as eClicker improved the learning process. For example, each student using an iPod was answering every question sent out by Glick as opposed to only answering questions that he or she was called on to answer in a typical classroom setting. And there were other important gains as well.

"What was even more gratifying was that my students have admitted to using the algebra applications at home during their own free time without being prompted," said Glick. "This was because I managed to embed a highly effective learning tool right in the center of a highly entertaining piece of technology. Imagine, a double agent located right next to their Facebook app, disguised as a game, actually helping the students practice their math skills!"

Glick believes there are many other iPod possibilities that extend beyond the realm of using third-party applications in his math class. He imagines students using the iPod to listen to books on tape, record narration/interviews, access the Internet, take online quizzes, watch related videos, and potentially make videos and take pictures, just to name a few possibilities. In the end, Glick knows that educators like him have only begun to scratch the surface in the exploration of iPod use in the classroom. He feels like it's a good start though. "While incorporating iPods into a mathematics lessons may still not be enough to bring schools towards the forefront in matters relating to technology, at least it indicates to students that we are finally ready to speak their language!"

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